Central Taiwan Notes: Teaching the Horse to Sing
The pressure over the next few years to sell Taiwan as Beijing grows more powerful is heightened by those willing to compromise and appease in the name of avoiding war
By Michael Turton / Contributing Author
One of the things I learned early on being a long-time atheist is that in the United States atheism requires sustained and rocky stubbornness to withstand the constant flow of pressure from public Christianity and performative.
For people with non-conformist, evidence-based humanistic beliefs, being in the wider society often feels like being under this German soldier in this scene from Saving Private Ryan, stabbed to death. little by little, while he murmurs:. “
This is what it means to be pro-Taiwan. Those of us who speak publicly about Taiwan, its international status, the threats it faces, and the kind of place it is, often seem like a mad mite to foreigners who talk about international affairs and meet up sometimes to apologize for our stubbornness.
Many of us also find ourselves questioning ourselves. Should we talk about this or that subject? Should we do it, in public or in private? Maybe it is better to stay silent.
The way we sound is not a function of our ideas, which are humanistic, rational and democratic. This is a problem of the arena of discussion, in which these values are largely ornamental.
Chinese fighter jets flooded Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) last week. The threat to Taiwan was clear.
Although it was the threat to Taiwan and the political meaning (s) of the Chinese measures, a crash erupted on social media about the false nomenclature issue: were the planes in “airspace?” of Taiwan ”, as some media reported?
It was evident from a few rounds of discussion about this (aside from a few good articles on the history of ADIZ Taiwan) that the function of this discussion was distraction – outright disinformation would not do the trick. case, because the threatening intent of Chinese warplanes was evident.
Hence the need for a diversion.
A source, widely quoted on Twitter, claimed that “Taiwan airspace” could not be used because the planes were not in “Taiwan sovereign airspace” (a claim that has never been used). been published in the media). But in fact, they were in the Taiwan Flight Information Region (FIR), an administrative region assigned to Taiwan by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which more or less coincides with ADIZ. from Taiwan to the south and east of the island.
“Taiwan Airspace”, plausibly enough. The media have used this expression several times over the years. Since it is not easy to group complicated ideas like ADIZs and FIRs into digestible bits for public consumption, such abbreviated uses are common.
The insistence that “Taiwan’s ADIZ” be used, and the function of this discussion, was to belittle the threat of the Chinese plane and berate Taiwan for reacting strongly – in fact, some media even withdrew. to say they were in Taiwan’s ADIZ, vaguely noting that the warplanes were in international airspace near Taiwan. Readers lost the vital information that these thefts represented something both unprecedented and irrelevant.
Also lost in the discussion was that the Chinese plane had passed very near or even over what looked, at least on the maps presented, to sovereign Philippine airspace. As of this writing, Manila has maintained a studied public silence on these flights. The United States and Taiwan were not the only countries tested.
Speaking on behalf of Taiwan, struggling to speak out against this wave of depreciation and diversion, required intense stubbornness. Indeed, this is what such hijacks are for – when they are successful, they make those who point out how wrong they are to seem irrational.
Speakers who wanted to appeal to this conversational hegemony were forced to pile additional explanatory information into their overflight presentations, making them duller and more complicated.
It was a very effective campaign.
Even as China flew warplanes in unprecedented numbers near Taiwan, security observers in remote areas of Taiwan continued to advocate selling it to avoid war – as if ceding Taiwan to China would not. would have no consequences for the security of Japan, the Philippines, Australia and the nations. on the South China Sea, not to mention the United States.
The United States should do this, we are told, to avoid not only war, but a new Cold War. This framing pre-positions pro-Taiwan voices as crass warmongers. In a media environment where the term “annex” is never used to represent China’s desire to swallow Taiwan and Beijing is never portrayed as “expansionist,” speakers who firmly insist on the use of a realistic terminology to describe the behavior of China that sound guttural, jarring, even barbaric. .
We are faced with a world that always tells us “shhhh, shhhh” as the knife slides inside.
“It is time for Beijing and Washington to overcome their largely national political limitations and chart a course for stability in Taiwan on the basis of credible mutual assurances,” Michael Swaine of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace wrote this week to Responsible Statecraft. . Puffy, decent, gentlemanly stuff.
As for Taiwan, this rowdy red-haired stepson of the international order, he can go and sit in a corner and quietly wait for the adults to decide when he will be annexed. Hush, kid, while we sort out what are clearly domestic issues.
Indeed, Paul Heer’s recent examination of the possibility of a new Cold War between Washington and Beijing for the national interest does not even mention Taiwan. Hush, you!
You feel like yelling at a gentleman like Swaine, with Lewis’ fictional character in The Remains of the Day: “Do you have any idea what kind of place the world is becoming all around you? Gone are the days when you could just act on your noble instincts.
But as is so often the case with speakers who are noble, decent, and gentlemanly, Swaine’s organization, the Carnegie Endowment, has offices in China. I’m sure his contracts with his Chinese hosts are secure for another year.
No, the truth is ugly and barbaric, and we must continue to point out it stubbornly. This plague across the strait is a threat to peace, not Taiwan and its voices. He cannot be reasoned and he will not keep any assurance that he gives.
The next few years will be crucial. The pressure to sell Taiwan will only increase as Beijing becomes more powerful. Our stubborn voices have never been more necessary to mar the soothing harmonies of compromise and appeasement with jarring notes of “annexation” and “resistance.”
We Taiwanese speakers are like the thief in Herodotus’ famous tale, asking for a one-year stay of execution to learn how to sing to the king’s horse. Maybe if we sing loud enough, the Party in Beijing will die. Maybe we will be freed. Or maybe, if we teach decision makers and commentators enough, this horse will learn to sing.
Notes from Central Taiwan is a column written by longtime resident Michael Turton that provides incisive commentary informed by three decades of living and writing about his adopted country. The opinions expressed here are his own.
Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Comments containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. The final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.